Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

Title: Brooklyn, Burning
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Pages: 210
Release date: September 1st 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book!
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreades description:
When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you'll find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you're really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.

First sentence:
On the corner of Franklin and India streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is the north wall of Fish's bar.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brooklyn, Burning is one of those books where you don't even notice how great it is while reading it; only once you've finished it do you see how incredibly good it really is. (At least, that's how it was for me.) It doesn't have one set topic or storyline, and while reading it, I wasn't all that impressed. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't really seem all that special, either. Only once I'd turned the last page did I see all the subtleties and how inconspicuously amazing Brooklyn, Burning is.

The whole book was like that, for me. The writing is matter-of-fact most of the time, which isn't something I usually like. But the sparse prose works in Brooklyn, Burning - somehow, it manages to convey subtle emotions without ever really addressing them. Despite using so few words, this book really made me feel something.

I love the whole idea for Brooklyn, Burning. I don't think I've ever read a novel about street kids before, and it was really interesting to read about a topic that's so far removed from my day-to-day life.

Its subtlety is probably what I liked best about Brooklyn, Burning. So many issues play a role in this book - homosexuality, homelessness, drug/alcohol abuse, parental neglect, and many more. But none of those issues are ever really addressed - they just are, and each reader can make of them what he or she wants.

The characters are great. After reading just a few sentences about a character, I could picture each of them easily. Even though I don't agree with each of Kid's decisions (I can't imagine leaving my family to live on the street for any reason), I could easily relate to our main character. Once you find out everything that's happened the previous summer, you can't help but feel for Kid. The secondary characters are great too. Even though you don't find out too much about Scout, Jonny, Konny, Felix and Fish, I felt like I knew them. All of the relationships are so real, I felt like Fish was the owner of the bar I go to, like Konny was my friend, and so on.

Did you notice how I haven't been using any pronouns? That's because the book doesn't, either - just, you know, in a more skillful and less obvious way. The reader never finds out what the genders of our characters are. If I'm being honest, I didn't even notice that while reading. I pictured Kid as male and Scout as female - I don't know why, that's just how they seemed to me. Only after reading some other reviews of Brooklyn, Burning, which talked about how we're never told Kid's gender, did I see that it was only my bias that had me believe Kid was male. That just shows that Steve Brezenoff is a better writer than I am a reader. Then, after reading Maggie's review, in which she addresses Scout as a 'he', whom I'd seen as a 'she', I noticed that none of the characters really have set genders. That's when I saw how amazing this book truly is - it must have been crazy hard not to give the genders of your characters away, but I love the idea. It makes you not see Kid and Scout's relationship as an LGBT-romance or a heterosexual-romance, but just see it as a beautiful love story, free of all stereotypes. I love that you can make of it whatever you want.

There must have been many more things I loved about Brooklyn, Burning, but I can't even tell you about them - I didn't notice them because of the book's incredible subtlety. This is one amazing book, and it's definitely original. I highly recommend this book, and not just for YA-readers - I think this book could be enjoyable for adults as well. I'm going to need to read Steve Brezenoff's debut, The Absolute Value of -1, as soon as possible!


  1. i love the subtleties that don't show themselves until you're finished. that's awesome.

    i can't wait to read this one!

  2. It reminds me a little, just a little of Ballads of Suburbia. Maybe it's because of the themes it touches and how there's more side characters. It's cool and interesting of the author to pull the "no gender" thing off. I don't think I've never "seen"/read a book like that before. Sounds like an amazing author.

    You made me laugh when you said this: "That just shows that Steve Brezenoff is a better writer than I am a reader." I get you on this one! Awesome review!

  3. Oh wow this sounds really original and different than anything I've ever read! Awesome review I must check this one out!

    Xpresso Reads


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